Yale School of Nursing, Yale University's Graduate Nursing Programs

Helen Varney Chair in Midwifery Named at Yale University School of Nursing

March 1, 2009

Holly Powell Kennedy, CNM, PhD, FACNM, FAAN, has been named the inaugural Helen Varney Professor of Midwifery at Yale University School of Nursing (YSN). Her appointment will begin on July 1, 2009.

Dr. Kennedy is currently an associate professor at the UCSF School of Nursing Department of Family Health Care Nursing and the UCSF/San Francisco General Hospital Interdepartmental Midwifery Education Program. Her research focuses on articulating and linking the work of midwives to health care outcomes. She was recently elected the President-Elect of the American College of Nurse-Midwives. She is the Co-Chair of the International Confederation of Midwives Research Standing Committee, which connects midwife researchers around the world. Dr. Kennedy also conducted research on England’s national commitment to normal birth as a 2008 Fulbright Distinguished Scholar. She received her certificate in nurse-midwifery from the Frontier School of Midwifery & Family Nursing in 1985 and her PhD from the University of Rhode Island in 1999.

Dr. Kennedy is also a retired Colonel of the US Army Nurse Corps Reserve with 31 years of service.

“I am delighted and honored to become the first Helen Varney Professor of Midwifery,” stated Dr. Kennedy. “I am also humbled as I have known and worked with Helen over the years. To assume a post named for her is to sit on the shoulders of a pioneer in the profession.”

“YSN has been a leader in midwifery education for nurses for over five decades, and I am delighted that we have been successful in recruiting Holly Powell Kennedy to YSN, where she will provide leadership in research and collaborations with colleagues on campus and in the community,” said Margaret Grey, Dean and Annie Goodrich Professor at YSN. “I expect that her appointment will enhance our interdisciplinary relationships in research, practice, and education, and she will serve as a catalyst to reach our strategic goal of being a center of excellence in midwifery.”

“The appointment of an endowed chair in midwifery at a top, prestigious university conveys a message of commitment to the philosophy and mission of the profession, the education of future midwives, and development of knowledge to enhance the health of women and their families,” added Dr. Kennedy. “It is an exceptional gift to midwifery and I would personally like to thank each donor for the opportunity that has been extended to me. “

The endowed Varney Chair honors the contributions in nurse-midwifery education, practice, and scholarship of Helen Varney Burst ‘63, CNM, MSN, DHL (Hon.), FACNM, Professor Emeritus at Yale University School of Nursing. Her contributions in clinical practice, midwifery education, scholarship, and professional development spanned more than 40 years. Professor Burst retired in 2004, having written the first textbook in nurse-midwifery/midwifery in the Western hemisphere, co-originated the mastery learning modular curriculum design for nurse-midwifery education that has been used by all the nurse-midwifery education programs, and served as the first two-term President of the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM).

“It is deeply gratifying to me that Yale and Yale School of Nursing has honored me with this professorial chair and that it will be first occupied by Holly Kennedy, an internationally known scholar who will carry forth the YSN tradition of excellence in scholarship, practice, education, and leadership,” commented Professor Burst. “Holly brings special talents in strategic planning, visionary ideas, and communication as well as even greater visibility and honor to YSN as the President-Elect of the ACNM. I could not be more pleased.”

YSN first recognized the contributions of the practice of midwifery when, in 1956, it became one of the first graduate schools in the nation to prepare nurse-midwives. Today, it is the second oldest existing master’s program in the United States. Started by Ernestine Wiedenbach, CNM, MA, the first graduates with both the Master of Science in Nursing and a Certificate in Nurse-Midwifery were graduated in 1958.

With nearly 500 graduates since 1958, YSN has prepared many of the leaders in the profession. Among the many contributions to the profession, Yale Midwives have started midwifery education programs in other academic institutions throughout the United States, developed new models of care which have shaped the profession, directed midwifery services, held leadership positions in the American College of Nurse-Midwives and authored the first textbook in nurse-midwifery/midwifery. YSN graduates have been in the forefront of developments in the profession and advancements in midwifery practice, education, research and policy.